Spiced Wine & Pear Hand Pies
A brisk wind curls in on itself, picking up the fallen gold and red leaves of a nearby maple. Frosty grey clouds hover overhead, sinking slowly towards the barren ground in a fine mist that seems to hang frozen in time. Dark coats and yards of layered fabrics hide shivering hands and chattering teeth as they hurry about, running from shelter to shelter. A distant train and its powerful horn call out through the wind-tossed trees and long, empty allies. The warning from the train as it approaches a faraway crossing warms ears bombarded by the shrill whistle of freezing wind howling around unmovable objects. One or two of us stop to listen to the faint mechanical song, forgetting for just a moment the harsh attack nature batters us with. We go back to our hurrying, quick to find a reprieve from the dry red noses and ears, aching joints, and damp clinging clothes.
Inside, blackened fireplaces roar to life with the warmth of an oak-fueled fire and the yellows, oranges, and reds that flicker about leaving a colorful glow on cold walls and colder faces. Stiff, frost-drenched hands hug hot mugs tightly. Fluffy-sock-covered feet sit precariously close to a barrage of popping embers. Slow sips on almost-boiling cocoa warm once blue lips.
A door opens and the sting of frigid air pokes unsuspecting faces. Hugs spread like wildfire, lingering longer than summer hugs, as friends are welcomed to the fire. Stories are whispered slowly over old worn books. Newcomers are handed hot mugs filled with sweet, chocolate warmth. Thank you’s quietly poke through the silence. Eyes loiter, watching the subtle changes in favorite, long-studied faces hiding behind steaming mugs and slowly removed mittens and hats. Another sip builds a small whipped cream mustache on unsuspecting lips.
A laugh calls attention to the confectionary whiskers. Smiles peak around woolen scarfs and a hastily wiped away whipped cream mustache.
Hand Pies: Hand pies are similar to galettes or tarts in that they must be able to support themselves without the aid of a dish. While galettes and tarts use specialized doughs, hand pies are small enough that you can get away with using a standard pie dough. Take care not to overfill each hand pie otherwise they could break apart easily.
- 2 Pecan Pie Crusts (recipe below)
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 ounces honey
- 4 ounces sugar
- 1 ounce sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2-4 ripe pears
- Egg wash
- Preheat an oven to 375°F. Roll out the pie crusts to make a 9" circle and set aside in the fridge.
- Put the wine, apple cider, bourbon, orange, lemon, cinnamon sticks, cloves, honey and 4 ounces sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the orange, lemon, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and let the mixture reduce to a third of its original volume, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool.
- In the meantime mix the 1 ounce sugar, salt, orange zest and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside
- Cut each disk into quarters. Brush the outside ¼" of each quarter with the egg wash.
- Lay a few pear slices on half of the dough quarter, leaving the ¼" space brushed with egg wash clear. Brush a little of the spiced wine over the pears. Sprinkle on some of the cinnamon sugar mixture over the pear slices.
- Fold over the half of the dough that does not have any pear slices on it. Carefully press the edges together to seal the hand pies. Using a toothpick crimp the edges to help keep them sealed. Cut a few slots in the top of the hand pie to allow the steam to escape.
- Repeat with the remaining dough quarters. Just before baking brush the top of each hand pie with the egg wash.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove and let cool.
Pie Dough: This is my standard flaky pie dough recipe but with a third of the flour replaced with ground pecans. The ground pecans gives the dough a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and adds a little crunch.
- 9 ounces bread flour
- 4 ounces ground pecans
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, cold and roughly chopped
- 3 ounces lard, cold and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup ice water
- Place the flour, ground pecans and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix thoroughly.
- Add the cold, chopped butter and lard to the food processor. Pulse a few times until the butter is about the size of small peas or grape nuts and the mixture resembles cornmeal.
- Add the water. Pulse until the mixture comes together and a dough is just formed. Be careful not to over mix the dough.
- Pour the dough out onto parchment paper. Knead together lightly if needed. Form the dough into a disk and wrap completely in parchment paper.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour to give the dough time to rest and to make it easier to work with and roll out.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator just before rolling out.